A North Korean mockup of South Korea’s Blue House burns during staged North Korean
wargames held in December 2016. The exercise was reportedly overseen by Kim Jong Un.
Image: Yonhap News Agency
An order for a new round of ideological training and combat preparation for the entire military was handed down by Kim Jong Un on January 19. It appears that the regime is taking action to prevent a lapse in discipline in the midst of warming inter-Korean relations due to cooperation for the Winter Olympics.
Speaking with Daily NK on January 22, a source in North Hamgyong Province said that the order stated that “regardless of whether there has been (North-South) dialogue, the military must remain unchanged and ready at any moment to use our weapons to unify the fatherland.”
“In an effort to spur the military, they are emphasizing that the situation could change at any moment, and that ‘the armed forces must, through the second session of winter training and Kyobang training simulating actual war, be able to hit the enemy with a devastating blow and fiercely and violently crush the enemy stronghold,'” he added.
Ideological education forms the centerpiece of winter training that has continued since December. The ‘Kyobang training’ refers to North Korean Special Operations’ naval, airborne, and ground exercises aimed at preparing soldiers and officers for real war conditions, and is split into two periods totaling around eight months.
“The 9th Division of the General Staff Department’s (GSD) Training Bureau is responsible for carrying out the training, which will run from February 1 until March 25. The orders include instructions regarding the confidentiality of the training program as well. There was information that live ammunition will be provided and used for the nationwide and border training in accordance with Kim Jong Un’s directives,” the source said.
It has also been reported that soldiers will be provided with new uniforms for the training as well as rice rations. In past training missions, soldiers received 700g of rice per day, but this time they will be receiving 800g.
The announcement contrasts with the government’s failure to provide sufficient food rations for soldiers from the beginning of the first winter training session in December. The change suggests a renewed focus on military preparedness during a time of warming relations with the South, with the regime hoping that better treatment will instill greater feelings of national unity amongst the soldiers.
Still, a slogan calling for ‘Preparation in every way for unification by force’ is not realistically reflected in the military’s current conditions.
A separate source in North Hamgyong Province reported that one soldier reacted by saying, “(The authorities) are forcing the military into this state due to the Olympics, but it’s only going to kill us out here in the bitter cold. Why are they raising tensions within the military while talking about a peaceful Olympics?”
“In addition, news that central authority support staff will come to inspect our division has not been received well here, because it means nobody will be able to engage in smuggling activities for the duration of the inspection,” he said. “Soldiers are complaining about losing their expected supplies due to orders to contribute food up the chain of command.”